Sigurd the Volsung

Book II, Pre-Kelmscott Edition, 1876, edited by Stuart Blersch

IV. Of the forging of the Sword that is called The Wrath of Sigurd

Now again came Sigurd to Regin, and said : “Thou hast taught me a task
Whereof none knoweth the ending: and a gift at thine hands I ask.”

Then answered Regin the master : “The world must be wide indeed
If my hand may not reach across it for aught thine heart may need,”

2825

“Yea wide is the world,” said Sigurd, “and soon spoken is thy word;
But this gift thou shalt nought gainsay me : for I bid thee forge me a sword.”

Then spake the Master of Masters, and his voice was sweet and soft,
“Look forth abroad, O Sigurd, and note in the heavens aloft
How the dime white moon of the daylight hangs round as the Goth-God’s shield :
2830
Now for thee first rang mine anvil when she walked the heavenly field
A slim and lovely lady, and the old moon lay on her arm :
Lo, here is a sword I have wrought thee with many a spell and charm
And all the craft of the Dwarf-kind; be glad thereof and sure;
Mid many a storm of battle full well shall it endure.”

2835

Then Sigurd looked on the slayer, and never a word would speak :
Gemmed were the hilts and golden, and the blade was blue and bleak,
And runes of the Dwarf-kind’s cunning each side the trench were scored :
But soft and sweet spake Regin : “How likest thou the sword?”

Then Sigurd laughed and answered: “The work is proved by the deed;
2840
See now if this be a traitor to fail me in my need.”

Then Regin trembled and shrank, so bright his eyes outshone
As he turned about to the anvil, and smote the sword thereon;
But the shards fell shivering earthward, and Sigurd’s heat grew wroth
As the steel-flakes tinkled about him: “Lo, there the right-hand’s troth!
2845
Lo, there the golden glitter, and the word that soon is split.”
And down amongst the ashes he cast the glittering hilt,
And turned his back on Regin and strode out through the door
And for a many a day of spring-tide came back again no more.
But at last he came to the stithy and again took up the word:
2850
“What hast thou done, O Master, in the forging of the sword?

Then sweetly Regin answered : “Hard task-master art thou,
But lo, a blade of battle that shall surely please thee now!
Two moons are clean departed since thou lookedst toward the sky
And sawest the dim white circle amid the cloud-flecks lie;
2855
And night and day I have labored; and the cunning of old days
Hath surely left my right-hand if this sword thou shalt no praise.”

And indeed the hilts gleamed glorious with many a dear-bought stone,
And down the fallow edges the light of battle shone;
Yet Sigurd’s eyes shone brighter, nor yet might Regin face
2860
Those eyes of the heart of the Volsungs; but trembled in his place
As Sigurd cried: “O Regin, thy kin of the days of old
Were an evil and treacherous folk, and they lied and murdered for gold;
And now if thou wouldst bewray me, of the ancient curse beware,
And set thy face as the flint the bale and the shame to bear :
2865
For he that would win to the heavens, and be as the Gods on high
Must tremble nought at the road, and the place where men-folk die.”

White leaps the blade in his hand and gleams in the gear of the wall,
And he smites, and the oft-smitten edges on the beaten anvil fall:
But the life of the sword departed, and dull and broken it lay
2870
On the ashes and flaked-off iron, and no word did Sigurd say,
But strode off through the door of the stithy and went to the Hall of Kings,
And was merry and blithe that even mid all imaginings.

But when the morrow was come he went to his mother and spake:
"The shards, the shards of the sword, that thou gleanedst for my sake
2875
In the night on the field of slaughter, in the tide when my father fell,
Hast thou kept them through sorrow and joyance? hast thou warded them trusty and well?
Where hast thou laid them, my mother?"
Then she looked upon him and said:
"Art thou wroth, O Sigurd my son, that such eyes are in thine head?
2880
And wilt thou be wroth with thy mother? do I withstand thee at all?"

"Nay," said he, "nought am I wrathful, but the days rise up like a wall
Betwixt my soul and the deeds, and I strive to rend them through.
And why wilt thou fear mine eyen? as the sword lies baleful and blue
E’en ‘twixt the lips of lovers, when they swear their troth thereon,
2885
So keen are the eyes ye have fashioned, ye folk of the days agone;
For therein is the light of battle, though whiles it lieth asleep.
Now give me the sword, my mother, that Sigmund gave thee to keep."

She said: "I shall give it thee gladly, for fain shall I be of thy praise
When thou knowest my careful keeping of that hope of the earlier days."

2890

So she took his hand in her hand, and they went their ways, they twain;
Till they came to the treasure of queen-folk, the guarded chamber of gain:
They were all alone with its riches, and she turned the key in the gold,
And lifted the sea-born purple, and the silken web unrolled,
And lo, 'twixt her hands and her bosom the shards of Sigmund's sword;
2895
No rust-fleck stained its edges, and the gems of the ocean's hoard
Were as bright in the hilts and glorious, as when in the Volsungs' hall
It shone in the eyes of the earl-folk and flashed from the shielded wall.

But Sigurd smiled upon it, and he said: "O Mother of Kings,
Well hast thou warded the war-glaive for a mirror of many things,
2900
And a hope of much fulfilment: well hast thou given to me
The message of my fathers, and the word of thing to be:
Trusty hath been thy warding, but its hour is over now:
These shards shall be knit together, and shall hear the war-wind blow."

They shall shine through the rain of Odin, as the sun come back to the world,
2905
When the heaviest bolt of the thunder admist the storm is hurled:
They shall shake the thrones of Kings, and shear the walls of war,
And undo the knot of treason when the world is darkening o’er.
They have shone in the dusk and the night-tide, they shall shine in the dawn and the day;
They have gathered the storm together, they shall chase the clouds away;
2910
They have sheared red gold asunder, they shall gleam o’er the garnered gold;
They have ended many a story, they shall fashion a tale to be told :
They have lived in the wrack of the people; they shall live in the glory of folk :
They have stricken the Gods in battle, for the Gods shall they strike the stroke.”

Then she felt his hands about her as he took the fateful sword,
2915
And he kissed her soft and sweetly; but she answered never a word:
So great and fair was he waxen, so glorious was his face,
So young, as the deathless Gods are, that long in the golden place
She stood when he was departed: as some for-traviled one
Comes over the dark fell-ridges on the birth-tide of the sun,
2920
And his gathering sleep falls from him mid the glory and the blaze;
And he sees the world grow merry and looks on the lightened ways,
While the ruddy streaks are melting in the day-flood broad and white;
Then the morn-dusk he forgetteth, and the moon-lit waste of night,
And the hall whence he departed with its yellow candles' flare:
2925
So stood the Isle-king's daughter in that treasure-chamber fair.

But swift on his ways went Sigurd, and to Regin's house he came,
Where the Master stood in the doorway and behind him leapt the flame,
And dark he looked and little: no more his speech was sweet,
No words on his lip were gathered the Volsung child to greet,
2930
Till he took the sword from Sigurd and the shards of the days of old;
Then he spake:
               "Will nothing serve thee save this blue steel and cold,
The bane of thy father's father, the fate of all his kin,
The baleful blade I fashioned, the Wrath that the Gods would win?"

2935

Then answered the eye-bright Sigurd: "If thou craft wilt do
Nought save these battle-gleanings shall be my helper true:

And what if thou begrudgest, and my battle-blade be dull,
Yet the hand of the Noms is lifted and the cup is over-full.
Repentst thou ne'er so sorely that thy kin must lie alow,
2940
How much soe’er thou longest the world to overthrow,
And, doubting the gold and the wisdom, wouldst even now appease
Blind hate and eyeless murder, and win the world with these;
O'er-late is the time for repenting the word thy lips have said :
Thou shalt have the Gold and the wisdom and take its curse on thine head.
2945
I say that thy lips have spoken, and no more with thee it lies
To do the deed or leave it : since thou hast shown mine eyes
The world that was aforetime, I see the world to be;
And woe to the tangling thicket, or the wall that hindereth me!
And short is the space I will tarry ; for how if the Worm should die
2950
Ere the first of my strokes be stricken? Wilt thou get to thy mastery
And knit these shards together that once in the Branstock stood?
But if not and a smith's hands fail me, a king's hand yet shall be good;
And the Norns have doomed thy brother. And yet I deem this sword
Is the slayer of the Serpent, and the scatterer of the Hoard."

2955

Great waxed the gloom of Regin, and he said : "Thou say est sooth
For none may turn him backward : the sword of a very youth
Shall one day end my cunning, as the Gods my joyance slew,
When nought thereof they were deeming, and another thing would do.
But this sword shall slay the Serpent ; and do another deed,
2960
And many an one thereafter till it fail thee in thy need.
But as fair and great as thou standest, yet get thee from mine house,
For in me too might ariseth, and the place is perilous
With the craft that was aforetime, and shall never be again,
When the hands that have taught thee cunning have failed from the world of men.
2965
Thou art wroth ; but thy wrath must slumber till fate its blossom bear;
Not thus were the eyes of Odin when I held him in the snare.
Depart! lest the end overtake us ere thy work and mine be done,
But come again in the night-tide and the slumber of the sun.
When the sharded moon of April hangs round in the undark May ."

2970

Hither and thither a while did the heart of Sigurd sway;
For he feared no craft of the Dwarf-kind, nor heeded the ways of Fate,
But his hand wrought e’en as his heart would : and now was he weary with hate
Of the hatred and scorn of the Gods, and the greed of gold and of gain.
And the weaponless hands of the stripling of the wrath and the rending were fain.
2975
But there stood Regin the Master, and his eyes were on Sigurd’s eyes,
Though nought belike they beheld him, and his brow was sad and wise;
And the greed died out of his visage and he stood like an image of old.

So the Noms drew Sigurd away, and the tide was an even of gold.
And sweet in the April even were the fowl-kind singing their best;
2980
And the light of life smote Sigurd, and the joy that knows no rest.
And the fond unnamed desire, and the hope of hidden things;
And he wended fair and lovely to the house of the feasting Kings.

But now when the moon was at full and the undark May begun,
Went Sigurd unto Regin mid the slumber of the sun,
2985
And amidst the fire-hall's pavement the King of the Dwarf-kind stood
Like an image of deeds departed and days that once were good;
And he seemed but faint and weary, and his eyes were dim and dazed
As they met the glory of Sigurd where the fitful candles blazed.
Then he spake :

2990

" Hail, Son of the Volsungs, the comer-stone is laid,
I have toiled and thou hast desired, and, lo, the fateful blade!"

Then Sigurd saw it lying on the ashes slaked and pale
Like the sun and the lightning mingled mid the even's cloudy bale;
For ruddy and great were the hilts, and the edges fine and wan,
2995
And all adown to the blood-point a very flame there ran
That swallowed the runes of wisdom wherewith its sides were scored.
No sound did Sigurd utter as he stooped adown for his sword,
But it seemed as his lips were moving with speech of strong desire.
White leapt the blade o'er his head, and he stood in the ring of its fire
3000
As hither and thither it played, till it fell on the anvil's strength,
And he cried aloud in his glory, and held out the sword full length.
As one who would show it the world; for the edges were dulled no whit.
And the anvil was cleft to the pavement with the dreadful dint of it.

But Regin cried to his harp-strings : " Before the days of men
3005
I smithied the Wrath of Sigurd, and now is it smithied again :
And my hand alone hath done it, and my heart alone hath dared
To bid that man to the mountain, and behold his glory bared.
Ah, if the son of Sigmund might wot of the thing I would,
Then how were the ages bettered, and the world all waxen good!
3010
Then how were the past forgotten and the weary days of yore,
And the hope of man that dieth and the waste that never bore!
How should this one live through the winter and know of all increase!
How should that one spring to the sunlight and bear the blossom of peace!
No more should the long-lived wisdom o’er the waste of the wilderness stray;
3015
Nor the clear-eyed hero hasten to the deedless ending of day.
And what if the hearts of the Volsungs for this deed of deeds were born,
How then were their life-days evil and the end of their lives forlorn?"

There stood Sigurd the Volsung, and heard how the harp-strings rang,
But of other things they told him than the hope that the Master sang;
3020
And his world lay far away from the Dwarf-king's eyeless realm
And the road that leadeth nowhere, and the ship without a helm :
But he spake :"How oft shall I say it, that I shall work thy will?
If my father hath made me mighty, thine heart shall I fulfill
With the wisdom and gold thou wouldest, before I wend on my ways;
3025
For now hast thou failed me nought, and the sword is the wonder of days."

No word for a while spake Regin; but he hung his head adown
As a man that pondereth sorely, and his voice once more was grown
As the voice of the smithying-master as he spake : " This Wrath of thine
Hath cleft the hard and the heavy; it shall shear the soft and the fine:
3030
Come forth to the night and prove it."

So they twain went forth abroad,
And the moon lay white on the river and lit the sleepless ford,
And down lo its pools they wended, and the stream was swift and full;
Then Regin cast against it a lock of fine-spun wool.
3035
And it whirled about on the eddy till it met the edges bared,
And as clean as the careless water the laboured fleece was sheared.

Then Regin spake : " It is good, what the smithy ing-carle hath wrought:
Now the work of the King beginneth, and the end that my soul hath sought.
Thou shalt toil and I shall desire, and the deed shall be surely done :
3040
For thy Wrath is alive and awake and the story of bale is begun."

Therewith was the Wrath of Sigurd laid soft in a golden sheath
And the peace-strings knit around it; for that blade was fain of death;
And 'tis ill to show such edges to the broad blue light of day,
Or to let the hall-glare light them, if ye list not play the play.

 

 

 

Back to top